When Naz Khan became Pakistan’s first female money-market trader 19 years ago, KASB Securities, the Merrill Lynch affiliate that had hired her, needed to build a women’s restroom in its Karachi office. By the time Khan left last year to become chief financial officer at Engro Fertilizer, KASB had so many women on staff that “we had to get in line” to use the restroom, she says.
Pakistan has long been a tough place for women seeking employment beyond the farm or factory. For decades the country’s conservative culture, with few links to the outside world, prevented many girls from getting an education and kept most women at home or in low-paying jobs. But in recent years Pakistanis have gained a greater awareness of how other societies treat women, as Internet use has expanded, global corporations have entered the country, and scores of television channels and radio stations have sprung up. At the same time, galloping inflation has spurred many women to seek jobs.